Don Wright/Associated Press
Le’Veon Bell angered some within the Pittsburgh Steelers organization when he didn’t sign his franchise tender earlier this week, but there is still some belief he will rejoin the team prior to Sunday’s season opener against the Cleveland Browns.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Thursday that people involved in the situation “guess” Bell will end his standoff Saturday:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
As the world waits for #Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell, there is no indication when he’ll show up. A Saturday arrival would allow him to receive his game check, but there is no clear evidence that he’s made plans to do that. https://t.co/1ohfkRMgjJ
Bell is not currently under contract and has no obligation to show up until he signs his franchise tender, which would pay him $14.45 million in 2018. League rules prevent the two sides from working out a long-term extension at this point in the year.
This marks the second consecutive year Pittsburgh placed the franchise tag on Bell, and it is the second straight year he missed offseason workouts and the preseason. In 2017, he let it be known he would report to the team Sept. 1, nine days before kickoff. He did indeed report on the date and played in the Steelers’ Week 1 contest.
This year, though, Bell has not given any indication as to when he might show up. He did, however, hint back in May that he would be on the field for the season opener:
Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert expressed his disappointment in a statement on the team’s official website as Bell remained unsigned Monday. He would not be the only Steeler to speak up.
Offensive lineman Ramon Foster made headlines earlier this week when he called out the player he blocks for.
“What do you do? Here’s a guy who doesn’t give a damn, I guess, so we’ll treat it as such,” Foster said Wednesday, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I just hate it came to this. … He’s making seven times what I make, twice as much as Al [Villanueva] is making, and we’re the guys who do it for him.”
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey called Bell’s actions “a little selfish,” per Tim Benz of the Tribune-Review: “I’m kinda pissed right now. It sucks that he’s not here. we’ll move on as a team. It doesn’t look like he’ll be in the game plan at this point. [James] Conner looks great. We’ll worry about him in Week 2.”
“Why play hide and seek? Why let your agent say this?” Pouncey added, per NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala. “Just man up and tell us what you’re going to do.”
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin avoided speculation, via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler:
Jeremy Fowler @JFowlerESPN
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he’s not speculating over why Le’Veon Bell is not here: “We’re not riding that wave.” https://t.co/uZtdBqHxsv
If and when Bell reports, the Steelers should be confident the three-time Pro Bowler will be able to pick up where he left off. He had 1,291 rushing yards, 655 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns last year despite not participating in offseason activities.